How Do You Solve A Problem Like Rooney?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A somewhat disappointing result for England in their opening game against the Italians in Manaus which based on a decent all round performance, was perhaps undeserved.  A vast improvement on their atrocious display against the same opposition two years ago, the result still offers considerable hope that they will win their next two games in order to reach the knockout stages.

Much of the post match analysis has revolved around the role of the much maligned Rooney (who I had the misfortune of receiving in the sweepstake at work).  I think that first of all any criticism of the player in this particular match is pretty much unwarranted and unjustified. Any individual who is played out of position to play his part for the team deserves every single bit of credit.  Rooney is not a left sided player and never will be (despite his sumptuous assist for Sturridge) and any influence his game has is always going to be restricted in such a wide position.  Defensively, he left Baines exposed on numerous occasions, but this is to be expected when a player is instructed to try and curtail his natural instincts to drift inside and support the striker.

Some of the criticism from Shearer on the BBC I thought was incredibly harsh. Granted, Rooney had a good chance to at least hit the target. However, having been starved of the ball all game and then popping up in his favoured central position it' a bit much to suggest he should have scored.  If he played in the central striking role all game then he probably would have had more chances and he may have put it away.

Interestingly, a lot of people think that the easy answer to the problem is to shift Rooney inside into his natural position, playing in behind the striker.  However, I think this is slightly misguided for a few reasons.

Firstly, this would mean shifting Sterling back out wide, probably England's most penetrative player which I don't think would be a good idea. Secondly, I think that by bringing him inside, England would effectively be playing a 4-4-2 as Rooney is not and never will be an attacking midfielder.  He no longer has that ability to drift past players, deliver those really intricate passes in the final third.  Yes he may drop off, but his tendency will then just to be to fire a 40 yard pass out wide and make his way into the box. Very few teams play with such a partnership these days, and more often than not, the support striker is a player who can provide some energy and excitement to the play i.e Sterling.

In my view, this leaves only one option and that is to leave Wayne on the bench (assuming Sturridge is fit). I would bring Lallana in on the left hand side. Whilst this may seem slightly negative, I think this would give the side better balance.  I think Welbeck on the other flank is perhaps another liability, but with limited options (no thank you Milner) I think he will probably retain his place.  For the Uruguay game, Barkley and Rooney should be brought on as impact players.

Now that the boring stuff is out the way, let's look at some other interesting points from some of the footage so far.

Thierry Henry has provided some much entertainment on the BBC and one of my friends interestingly thinks that he was perhaps smoking something either before or during the coverage, and I wouldn't disagree with that. His comment that Pirlo deliberately hit the crossbar with his free kick was my personal highlight.

The uglier of the Neville brothers has come in for a fair amount of deserved stick of this punditry during the match and it's fair to say that he was probably the worst person to have commentating on such a late kick off. For those who had nearly fallen asleep anyway, his dull, expressionless tones probably sent half the country into a coma long before the match had ended.  Who needs hypnosis to send people to sleep when you have commentary like that?  Pitchside expert Danny Murphy was much more worthy of taking a spot in the commentary box with his incisive and clever analysis.  Although perhaps their roles were not reversed as Monsieur Neville has a better face for commentary.....

.....and finally it's fair to say that all of the games have been pretty entertaining so far.  But even the most boring of matches will be lit up by the rather hilarious confirmation of all goals using the Goal-line technology. When the ball has been smashed into the back of the next it's good that we see those 50 different angles to show that the ball has indeed crossed the line...what on earth are these guys up to?


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